By Nathan Ham
Mother Nature showed its ugly side on April 27 as tornadoes ripped through the Virginia countryside, killing four and destroying a Gates Corporation factory located in Glade Spring, Va.
Nearly a month after the devastating twister, Ashe County received some bright economic news when Chris Robinson, director of Ashe County Job Development Inc., announced that the Gates factory here in the county would be adding temporary employees as the corporation has moved most of the factory operations from Glade Spring to the former Leviton building located next door to Gates.
Many of the temporary workers will be contractors, such as plumbers, painters and electricians. Several of the employees from the Virginia plant will keep their jobs.
“As it stands right now, they are bussing those folks from Virginia down,” said Robinson.
Roughly 75 people from the Glade Spring plant make the one-and-a-half-hour trip to Jefferson each day to work in the 100,499 square foot building that was donated to ACJD by Leviton. Gates Corporation was renting roughly one-third of the building for storage, but chose to move the small hose production from the Glade Spring plant to Jefferson, thus the need to rent the entire building.
“We are really fortunate in Ashe County right now as we are starting to see some things picking up,” said Robinson.
Gates, as well as GE and United Chemi-Con have either made new hires recently or are in the hiring process right now.
“It is a slow recovery. That doesn’t apply just to Ashe County but also nationwide. The good news is that our larger employers are starting to hire,” added Robinson.
As of now, the current agreement is for Gates to be using the facility for 90 days, but could be extended up to 120 days. It is uncertain what the future holds for the new manufacturing division that Gates has moved to Jefferson.
“There has not been a final decision on whether they are moving back to Virginia or relocating the facility,” said Robinson. “We will work with Gates the best way to meet their needs and be a good partner with them locally.”